Seasoned religious communicator offers tips for connecting with secular media
By Eron Henry
CHICAGO (March 30, 2017) — Religious media professionals were reminded Thursday of some of the basics of dealing with their secular media counterparts.
In a workshop held during the annual convention of the Religion Communicators Council, Anuttama Dasa, head of communications for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Rockville, Md., told attendees to “understand that reporters are people with a job to do” and that they “are often overworked and very busy.”
It is imperative that religion communicators “don’t take anything personally” in response to what a journalist does or says. In particular, “don’t be discouraged if they ignore you or write a critical article.” Religion communicators should rather focus on building long term relationships, being “a dependable and reliable resource” and never lying to or misleading the media.
Religion communicators should be professional when dealing with secular media colleagues. “Know your news angle when you contact them,” Dasa said. “Learn the individual reporter’s needs, interests and deadlines.”
Dasa, who has had more than a quarter century of media experience, said it is best to practice for a live or recorded television interview. “Practice with a video recorder in front of a mirror or with colleagues,” he advised. “The reporter will come with his [or her] agenda. You need to have yours planned ahead.”
During the interview, one should “maintain a positive, friendly demeanor” and “don’t look defensive.” One should avoid going the “no comment” route. “If asked something you are not comfortable answering, tell the reporter that you will check it out and get back to them later. Do not say ‘no comment.’”
The religion communicator should “make sure your messages are consistent with other organization spokespersons.”
Dasa also provided tips on how one should approach a radio interview, what to do if interviewed for print publication, and how to deal with interviews that turn out to be confrontational.
In the case of the latter, it is best to “concentrate on the good news” and “keep answers short.” One should not be shy to offer corrections. “If the interviewer rephrases your statements, make sure he/she got them right. If not, put them right at once.”